TRADERS and farmers in Nkasi District are optimistic of future prospects as a newly constructed Kabwe port in Rukwa Region is boosting cross-border trade with DR Congo and Burundi.
Opened last year, the new port constructed by local contractor, Sumri Enterprises Limited for 7.5bn/- from the government through Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), lies somehow between the mineral rich towns Moba and Kalemie of DR Congo on the western shores of the Lake Tanganyika.
The port with a godown, passenger lounge, refurbished offices and 5.5 metres deep berths, which allow big boats to dock, has opened a window of opportunity for traders as well as small scale farmers to supply maize, rice, sugar cement and other construction material as well as consumer products to Moba port that lies about 24 kilometres from Kabwe port and Kalemie port, about 78 kilometres.
The latter has an airport and rail links to Lubumbashi, the third largest city of DR Congo, a leading mining centre and a hub for many of the country's largest mining companies and Kananga, the capital city of Kasai Central Province in the DR Congo.
The cross border trade was earlier conducted in small-scale or informal trade along the lake shore, typically on smaller wooden boats. With the new port, big vessels with more loading capacity dock at the port boosting trade with the neighbouring countries.
"After we got the port, business is growing rapidly," Mohamed Nassor Shibiby, who owns three cargo boats plying on the Lake Tanganyika, tells the 'Daily News' at Kabwe port. He says traders were no longer going all the way to Kigoma to ferry their produce to Congo and Burundi.
"We thank the government and TPA for constructing the port. However the godown is small and we need a fork-lift," he said.
He appeals to the government to construct a 63-kilometre road from Lyazumbi junction to Kabwe port to tarmac level to ease transport to the port adding that the government can be assured of adequate return for the investment risk taken.
"This port will grow and cargo volume will increase and so will be earnings to the government, farmers and traders in Nkasi District," he says.
Samora Ackleo, a maize and rice trader in Nkasi District says the new port has opened trade opportunities in the district and boosted income to the residents and the economy in general.
"It has also increased job opportunities to the youth which is helping them to get income," says the man who buys maize and rice from farmers and sell them to cross-border traders.
"However a godown is a challenge. The place to store cargo is not big enough and it becomes worse when it rains," he says. Kabwe Port Officer, Mohamed Mayoro agrees that that business is growing and so is the cargo volume handled at the port.
"Customers increase day after day. We handle quite big volume of cargo destined for DR Congo and Burundi. Traders from DR Congo and Burundi come in big numbers," he says.
He says the main exports through the port are food products particularly maize and rice and cement from Mbeya Cement plant. The Acting Manager for Lake Tanganyika ports, Augustine Nyoni says cargo volume handled at the port has been increasing since the port was opened last year.
He said in 2015/16 the port handled 260 metric tonnes of cargo which increased to 669 metric tonnes in 2016/17 and 861 metric tonnes the following year. The cargo volume recorded a steep growth to 5,026 metric tonnes in 2019/20 which increased to 8,270 metric tonnes from July 2020 to April this year.
Kabwe port boasts of a good cargo security record which is vital in attracting more business and customers. The Security Officer, Alphonce Kusekwa says they have adequate security systems within the port and they do proper monitoring and inspection of cargo handled at the port. They also maintain security to the perimeters of the port and conduct physical port security risk management, he adds.
"Kabwe port is safe. We haven't had any record of cargo theft or pilferage. If you drop your phone or money you are sure of getting it back. And that has happened several times," he says, noting that it became possible through participatory approach with all stakeholders at the port.
As maize and rice are the main food exports through the port, the management has made sure there is adequate food export control and certification. Agricultural Officer, at the port, Audvas Richard says that they inspect food products exported to make sure they meet required health and safety standards before they are shipped out.
"We inspect all food products before they are exported. We do visual observations and at times we take samples for testing before issuing an export permit," he says.
When they prove the food is not safe for export they destroy them, he says. However there are challenges. He says not all exporters are used to inspections and some use illegal ports to evade inspection.